School of Art and Design Alumni Exhibition 2021
Wellington B. Gray Gallery
This piece grew out of a fascination with an heirloom image taken in 1907 of Mama Ruth, my grandmother, as a little girl surrounded by her family. The image has always haunted me.
Mama Ruth always let me know that someone believed in me, always encouraging me and making me think I could become an artist, loaning me the money that got me my first teaching job at Florida State. For me she is iconic and sacred, especially in the image of her as a little girl surrounded by family. Her aura would light up a room as it does in the 1907 photograph’s composition.
I began thinking of ways new technology can seemingly bring these ancestors back to life, enhancing and animating them as video. For me, these types of online conversions utilizing Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning algorithms that have suddenly become routine are revolutionary for image makers and storytellers. Digital Art is largely about compositing and these technologies make it easier and more accurate when you let the machines do it for you. The computer learns every time someone uses a Neural Filter in Photoshop then draws on that experience with billions of similar problems to enhance, colorize and animate the image, even from different angles. The possibilities are endless and amazing, even if the data is being harvested – which also brings up issues of AI and Machine Learning and how it is being infiltrated into our lives (i.e., facial recognition, banner ads, etc).
For me the piece evokes a sense close to Deja Vu that is really impossible to explain or describe. The video animation of the figures has a rather ineffable strange sense of sadness and is also maybe a tad creepy- not in a gross way but in a ghost way. Beautiful and Sad at the same time. Like life.
TIME AT EAST CAROLINA-
I started undergraduate BFA at ECU School of Art in Fall of 1972, then graduated again with an MFA in 1984. Tumultuous times then as now.
I quickly became entrenched in the Printmaking Department of Don Sexauer and Michael Ehlbeck, a good time to apprentice to two very different artists and styles of teaching who were incredible artists in their own right. They were the right balance of father figure and best friend a student could hope for.
The Art Department in 1972 was a hotbed of creative artistic activity. Lifelong friendships were formed. Students were exhibiting professionally with faculty. There were frequent “Attitude Adjustment Hours” on Fridays at the Rathskeller where we would argue at length about life and Art. All of us lived and breathed Art virtually living in the studios- first on the second floor overlooking the old student union, then in Jenkins, which was relatively new. I remember Ray Elmore walking by Ed Reeps painting class and asking what the assignment was, then challenging Ed to create something based on the assignment by the next class, where they both presented unbelievable finished images. What great role models for students of Art and so many instances like it that built such a great community. We stand on the shoulders of the teachers we had then.
Mama Ruth and Family 1907, Mixed Installation (1907 Photograph and Video), 18″ x 48″ x 3″, 2021
Cowboys and Engines – Undergraduate Student Work, Intaglio, 18″ x 24″, 1978